Experimental musician and innovator William Close constructed his first musical instrument, an exhaust pipe harp, when he was in college. Inspired by the beauty of its sound, he then went on to create over 100 unique instruments, including the Earth Harp, which has traveled to the Seattle Space Needle and the Coliseum in Rome, among other locations.
Now, the Earth Harp, an immense, golden harp that stretches dozens of feet from the stage of a theater to encompass the audience, is landing on Royal Caribbean International’s newest ship, Quantum of the Seas.
Developed in collaboration with Close as part of Quantum’s futuristic, multi-faceted entertainment offerings, a performance called Sonic Odyssey will feature the Earth Harp, which has strings that run from the stage up to the balcony rail of the ship’s 1,300-seat Royal Theater.
“People will be able to see exactly where the strings go and experience them from above or from below,” Close says.
The Royal Gong, the largest gong in the world, a Drum Wall made up of 136 drums and a Violin dress will also send resounding notes throughout Quantum’s 1,300-seat Royal Theater.
“I’m really into the idea of combining fashion and music – the element of wearing the instrument,” Close says. “In Sonic Odyssey, a gorgeous woman comes out in a dress literally covered in violin strings and is playing them as she enters the stage.”
Essential to Sonic Odyssey’s brilliant eccentricity is a cast of 24 dancers, singers, gymnasts and aerialists dressed in intricate costumes who demonstrate experimental choreography while illuminated by special effects. The stage will be set with fully automated theatrical lifts and flying scenery, as well as a 47-foot wide, multi-layer LED wall.
The show also stars a charismatic character named Maestro who plays a number of Close’s instruments and helps the theater come alive through music. “The character is sort of based on me and my exploring of music and musical expression,” said Close.
Sonic Odyssey’s cast will entice the audience with tunes from Coldplay and U2 to Beethoven and Latin rhythms, making the show relevant for a wide variety of tastes and ages. “Whether you love the classical side of it, or the classic rock side, or the exciting percussive side, there’s sort of something for everybody,” said Close.
Why did Close feel strongly about bringing his innovative instruments and concepts to a cruise ship? The fusion of music and sailing is natural for him.
“I grew up on sailboats and on the water so, for me, it is a real affirmation of all the work that I’ve done,” he said. “I’ve always loved the idea of the sailboat rigging and the ship itself being the instrument.”
One thing is for certain: in November 2014, Quantum’s Royal Theater will be absolutely reverberating with larger than life music.